This month’s theme from our statement of purpose is ‘community.’ What motivated me to write these opening words in the first place was the fact that here in the U.S. we live in social worlds that are marinated in a culture of extreme individualism that makes building and belonging to real, enduring communities difficult or nearly impossible.
A couple of years ago I heard an interview on the radio about a new book called Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. The author, Sebastian Junger, had spent several months living in a remote area of Afghanistan with an army special forces unit that was actively engaged in combat against Taliban forces. These soldiers had bonded into a tightly knit community, or tribe, and they experienced their return to the U.S. as a painful loss. Instead of a tribe of closely connected men, these returning veterans found themselves immersed in a sprawling and anonymous mess where people can (and do) get away with incredible levels of dishonesty without getting caught. Astronomically high rates of PTSD and suicide among vets reflect this unbridgeable divide between tribal community and contemporary U.S. society.
Junger’s argument struck a chord deep in my soul, not because I have served in the military in combat situations but on account of my experiences as a cultural anthropologist who lived intermittently during the 1980s and ‘90s in a tribal community of indigenous Amazonian peoples in Venezuela and Colombia. Many times I have experienced a ‘reverse culture shock’ upon returning from this tribal community in the Amazon to the hyper-individualism of the U.S.
I find it highly inaccurate, even offensive, to hear the words ‘tribal’ or ‘tribalism’ used to describe the hyper-partisanship that has afflicted our political system in recent decades. In fact, it is not tribalism that causes political polarization but self-interested office holders whose sole purposes are to stay in power at all costs and to raise as much money for themselves as possible. Such self-aggrandizement and enrichment at the expense of communal well-being would be severely punished in a tribal community. Are we the people really divided into warring ‘tribes’, red versus blue, straight versus gay, rural versus urban, and so forth? On the contrary, statistical studies show that there are important social issues that unite the vast majority of Americans. More than 97% of Americans, for example, believe we need to pass an effective federal background check for individuals buying firearms, yet we have no such federal protection even after an epidemic of mass murders that have one common denominator: firearms. Last April an ex-marine was acting violently and irrationally at his family home in southern California, and neither law enforcement nor mental health experts made any effort to deprive him of his firearms. Protection of his individual right of gun ownership set the stage for last week’s mass murder in Thousand Oaks. Can we even have viable religious, educational, or other communities when our collective right to public safety is so blatantly, frequently, repeatedly, and massively disregarded?
So please remember the next time you hear politicians or pundits blame our political dysfunctionality on ‘tribalism,’ they should really be pointing a finger at the broader culture of narcissistic individualism that is eroding our communal well-being, that has resulted in a narcissist-in-chief as leader of the ‘free world,’ and that has brought us to the brink of a constitutional crisis that makes Watergate look like a playground dispute among children.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
The art exhibit now hanging in our galleries features portraits of young, happy faces captured on large, canvas quilts. Their striking eyes are what stand out. The portraits are even more powerful when you learn that all of these happy children died as the result of gun violence. There are eight portraits per quilt, representing the number of children who die of gun violence every day in America.
Christine Ilewski, an artist based in Alton, Ill., has dedicated her life to painting portraits of these children. Her project, “Faces Not Forgotten,” will be on display here for the next six weeks.
The not-for-profit organization “Faces Not Forgotten” has grown exponentially since Ilewski began painting the portraits nine years ago. In 2009, her friend, the Rev. Lorenzo Rosebaugh, was gunned down during a mission in Guatemala. It was not the first time Ilewski lost a loved one to gun violence — her father passed away 30 years earlier.
As Ilewski grieved, she turned to her art. She painted a portrait to celebrate Rosebaugh’s life but found herself drawn to the stories of young victims of gun violence — “I imagined the loss to the parents would be unbearable,” she says.
Then Ilewski began contacting families who lost children younger than 20 years old to gun violence, offering to paint a portrait of the child for free. In the first two years of the project, she completed more than 30 portraits, their features detailed in wildly colorful acrylic, and soft watercolors.
In the beginning, Ilewski painted all the portraits herself. “But I got overwhelmed — I even thought about stopping,” she recalls. “A friend stepped in and said, ‘You need help.’” So Ilewski got to work recruiting artists from across the country with the same request: to donate portraits to families of young gun violence victims. Now, “Faces Not Forgotten” has created more than 150 portraits of children from 12 states.
Each portrait takes weeks, sometimes months to complete. The originals are sent to the families, while a digital copy is superimposed onto a vintage handkerchief and printed onto the canvas. Ilewski uses the handkerchiefs — a myriad of bright, floral patterns from a vintage collection she owns — to represent grief. The flowers that surround each child’s head are meant to mimic the circular floral arrangements common to funerals.
The process of creating the portraits is an emotional experience for the artist and for the victim’s family. The main goal of “Faces Not Forgotten” is to provide comfort to victims’ families. They will not paint a portrait without the family’s permission, and if the family is unhappy with the results, the portrait is redone.
The portraits in our exhibit are of children from St Louis, Chicago, Texas, …
Following Platform today, we will have a reception in our Foyer. We hope you can join us. Families of the children portrayed in the quilts have been invited to be with us. Kate Lovelady and Christine Ilewski will speak about this project and you can meet some of the families of the children.
Faces Not Forgotten is a not-for-profit organization. If you would like to make a donation to support their work, you can make a donation at their website or contact me for information.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
The Faces Not Forgotten Art Exhibit will hang at the Ethical Society from November 2 until December 10. This not-for-profit organization has artists paint pictures of children killed by gun violence. The paintings are given to the families of the children. Images of the paintings are put into quilts like the one shown here, and are exhibited. This is a nationwide program. The quilts in our exhibit will contain images of children from St Louis and Chicago.
Their reception will be Sunday, November 4, 12:30 to 2:30. Some of the families of the children represented will be at the reception and each child will be remembered at the Reception.
Artist Statement by Christine Ilewski, founder/director
“Shootings” take place daily in the US. We seem to accept them as a general public. Certainly we’re outraged when we hear the victims are children and young adults under 21. Then time passes. Can we remember the individual names of those children? Can we recall their faces?
I couldn’t. And then I suffered a personal loss to gun violence, A dear friend, Fr. Lorenzo Rosebaugh, OMI, was gunned down. His life had been devoted to the resistance of violence and injustice. He had just officiated at the funerals of two teen victims of gun violence. Over thirty years ago, I had lost my father to suicide by gun. All of my planned art work at that time came to a halt.
I began the “Faces Project,” painting the portraits of children, 20 and under, who have died as the result of gun violence. An artist friend, Jane Linders, got us organized as I was becoming overwhelmed by the numbers of local victims. Other
passionate artists joined us. We formed a board. And, thanks in part to receiving the 2013 Critical Mass Creative Stimulus grant and the devotion of these artists, we continue to put a Face to the youngest victims of gun violence.
Bill Burton, a young African American artist, gave us a new logo to go with a new name “Faces Not Forgotten”, which speaks more directly to the wishes of the families: that their children not be forgotten.
We paint a portrait, the “Face” of each child, which is then donated to the family. A jpeg. image of the original portrait is graphically superimposed over an image of a vintage handkerchief by Andrew Dobson and printed on 16×20” canvas
panels with grommets in the corners to create the “Faces”. These are tied together with black ribbon in sets of 9, 8 portraits for the 8 children that die each day from gun violence and 1 logo, to create our Faces Not Forgotten quilts.
We work with survivor networks, MOMS, Brady, St. Louis CVA, etc. to respectfully contact victims’ families for their permission to use these portraits in the fight against gun violence. We have exhibited them at Rutgers Univ., NJ;
Northeastern Univ., Chicago; The Vaughn Cultural Center, , the Univ. of MO-STL , Blackburn College, Soulard Art Market, the MO State Capitol, The Regional Arts Center, Christ Church Cathedral and have numerous future exhibits planned.
Jessica Meyers, director of CVA, said that one thing families say over and over is that they are afraid that their child will be forgotten. The Faces Not Forgotten Project attempts to keep their memory alive and to offer some small
comfort and support to the families. These children are not just numbers or statistics. Each one of them was a life ended. Each one has a Face.
For more information/ to make a donation: firstname.lastname@example.org
A special Platform presenting the 2018 Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Award to Jorge Riopedre, president and CEO of Casa de Salud, a clinic providing high-quality, low-cost clinical and mental healthcare to the uninsured, focusing on the new immigrant community.
Jorge says, “The Internet and social media have made it easy to connect and given us a megaphone to express ourselves on every topic imaginable, and yet our isolation from each other has increased; we seem to be less willing or able to actually do something to drive change. Actions, not words, are what the world needs from us, and what we need for ourselves.”
Listen to Jorge’s acceptance speech.
After earning a degree in Broadcast Communications from Loyola University in New Orleans, Jorge launched a media production company specializing in the Hispanic market, which he successfully ran until becoming executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis in 2010, for which he also served as chairman and president from 2008 to 2009.
Jorge is a 2015 Eisenhower Fellow, having traveled to Germany and Mexico to study the healthcare systems of those countries, and is now president of the Eisenhower Fellowships St. Louis chapter. Jorge co-founded the St. Louis New American Alliance, which provides referral services to foreign-born individuals throughout the region. He serves on the University of Missouri-St. Louis Arts & Sciences Leadership Council, the Brown School of Social Work Advisory Committee, and the Mid-America Transplant Medical Advisory Board, as well as the community advisory boards for iHeart Media, the Nine Network, the Deaconess Foundation, and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
The recognitions Jorge has received include the Diverse Business Leader Award from the St. Louis Business Journal, the Norman A. Stack Community Relations Award from the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Michal J. Garanzini Award for Outstanding Community Service from Saint Louis University.
We are privileged.
Though it may be a bit presumptuous, I’m guessing most of us don’t struggle with having enough to eat …
whenever we want food
whenever we’re hungry.
This isn’t true for 126, 000 kids and teens in our region who face food insecurity. Not having enough to eat is a part of their daily life.
But there’s good news:
WE AT ETHICAL SOCIETY ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE for them!
In the last year, we’ve collected and donated nearly 800 lbs of food to Operation Food Search to fight local food insecurity.
That’s the weight of an average bison! (True..I looked it up!)
That’s valued at $1,326 and in one day could feed nearly 200 people.
For this generosity I thank you.
Operation Food Search helps many people:
3 years ago there were 173,000 food insecure kids and teens. Now? 126,000 That’s nearly 50,000 fewer struggling. That’s the difference we are making.
You might think OFS is just about food collections but they do so much more! They help in three major ways:
- Offer nutrition programs
- Partner with transitional/homeless housing non-profits
- Align with area pediatric hospitals and clinics, OB/GYN practices and clinics, educational
systems and facilitators
HOW DO WE KEEP HELPING AND MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
You bring non- perishable food to share and fill the blue barrel and I’ll deliver it to OFS. To help encourage everyone to give regularly, we’ll remind you at the beginning of each month when we enjoy our First Sunday Lunch. Come to the Sunday lunch, bring a food item for the barrel.
A CHALLENGE to you all:
In the coming year, let’s double our giving. Instead of one 800 pound bison of food, let’s give two. I believe we as a community can collect 1,600 pounds of food to help hungry kids and teens.
Who’s with me?
You’ll continue to find the blue barrel down stairs by the elevator.
NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.
Good morning! Welcome to our welcoming home for Humanists.
So, are you a Humanist, or even a religious Humanist? Maybe you are here at least partly because you enjoy being with like-minded people. That’s what new members often tell us.
Our website, and that of our national American Ethical Union, says that, “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”
But surely, the St. Louis community includes many more people than our few hundred members, who share a humanistic outlook, but don’t belong to any congregation. Maybe just not interested, no matter what, but some others would thrive here if they just found us.
Our increased outreach lately has brought us new members and a larger profile in the St. Louis community, but in a couple of respects our membership look has not changed much.
That is, in spite of some trends to the contrary, we still look basically… kind of old… and kind of white.
Honestly, that’s not what most of us want. What can we do?
Looking for answers, we are making a new, focused effort to spread the welcome mat, especially to those who are now obviously underrepresented.
One part of this effort is our new “Diversity and Inclusion” committee.
This committee will:
- Recommend strategies and resources that encourage diversity and inclusion in the Society’s programming and operations;
- Monitor the Society’s progress toward achieving greater diversity and inclusion in our membership, programming, outreach, and participation in our various activities.
The committee chair is Scott Wright, with members Samantha White, Kristen Rosen, Chinn Zou, and me. If you are here, please stand.
So, how do we make it happen? I, for one, would like to ensure that we often have speakers for Platform and 9:45 Forum who would be of interest to that wider audience; and we should reflect these diversity objectives on our Website and the printed materials that we provide for visitors, especially those who come by for non-Sunday events.
But really, we need EVERYONE’S creativity to help us make it abundantly clear that we welcome enthusiastically anyone with Humanist leanings. Please, tell us your ideas, including people you know of who could enhance our programming.
Now, speaking at least for just myself, yes, I think that increased diversity would make the Society an even better place. But beyond that, I believe we actually have an obligation to get the word out that we are a singular community asset for Humanists, right here in the middle of the St. Louis area.
I fear that one reason we are not as race or ethnic, and age diverse as we could be is that some like-minded Humanists take a look at us, including our surroundings, and wrongly conclude that they would not really be welcome.
My friends, there should be NO doubt that we truly want to share our community and make it attractive to ANYONE who would appreciate a humanist home. In fact, the membership qualifications in our by-laws are pretty simple: Any person of reputable character and in sympathy with the general purposes, principles and aims of the Ethical Culture Movement…
So on behalf of our Committee, I ask again that ALL of us get creative and step up our game to ensure that we can make the missing connections to many more of those like-minded folks.
Good Morning. I want to talk about the Ethical Society’s One Read. You may live in a community that has done this. We have announced plans for the Ethical Society’s One read in the last several programs. I am very enthusiastic about both the concept and the book that has been chosen.
All of us who participate in the Ethical One Read will be having the same experience. Reading the same book is community building. It will give us something in common with other members here. Many of us have been coming to Ethical for a long time and know a lot of people; and that is a very comfortable place to be. But it can inhibit us from meeting members we do not know or rarely talk to. Others of us are newer members. It can sometimes be hard to initiate conversation or feel included. Hopefully, we will all welcome the opportunity to have conversations about this book with others, whether we know them or not.
Reading it will put us on equal footing and provide the basis for exchanging ideas and getting to know one another better. Ethical Humanists do not have the go-to One reads that other religious communities have— the Bible for Christians, the Koran for Muslims, the Torah for Jews, etc. But everyone knows that Stories are how we transmit culture, explore values and learn about life’s hard choices.
The book that has been chosen for the One Read is no simple parable. It is a rich and complex memoir which explores both suffering and personal redemption. It is a dramatic story of a woman who saves herself by saving others. Regardless of the reader’s life experience, the book will evoke powerful memories, allowing the reader to empathize with the author’s suffering, shame , guilt and ultimately, her successes and triumphs. It touches the reader deeply.
Becoming Ms. Burton is also a very cogent introduction to the prison industrial complex which has arisen in the U.S. in the last 30 or so years. Reading this book provides the reader with an education about mass incarceration and why it is now at a crisis level.
You are about to hear a very moving platform. I admire Samantha and Krystal very much for being willing to share some painful, personal stories. Their willingness to be vulnerable and self-revealing is a testament to their trust in this community. Their trust in us is a gift. I hope it will motivate you to read the book, come to discussions, and inspire random conversations with strangers here, waiting to become your friends.
What happens when a group of women artists get together to discuss their photography and critique new work? The Sharp Shooters happen!
This group of dynamic women – Nancy Bridges, Anna Harris, Jo McCredie, Marion Noll, Marianne Pepper, Erica Popp, Joan Proffer, Naomi Runtz, Valerie Snyder, Barbie Steps, Kay Wood and Barbara Zucker – comprise a contemporary salon, an assemblage of talented artists, who have been meeting and exhibiting their work together in the St Louis area since 2009.
Coming together with different backgrounds and viewpoints, the Sharp Shooters share a great sense of camaraderie. Their animated discussions are always lively and focus on improving their personal visions. They travel together and individually, exploring the world around us – dedicated to creating photographic art.
The Sharp Shooters are excited to display their favorite pieces of diverse work from the past years, pulled from their years of many shows at local art galleries and universities.
The exhibit will open on Friday, September 21, and run through Sunday, October 28, in the front lobby of the Ethical Society of St Louis. A reception will be held on Sunday, September 23, from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM.
The works of Bernard Ranford will be exhibited at the Ethical Society upstairs gallery from August 5 through September 18. A reception will be held Sunday, August 5 at 12:30 in the foyer.
This month’s art exhibit features works done by member Alan Ranford’s father in the period between from 1908 to 1922. It mainly displays his love for the sea. As a youth, he spent several summers crewing on a sailing barge carrying coal and gravel between the English port of Bristol and ports along the North coast of Devon and Cornwall. He took photographs and made sketches and later, at home in Malvern in the Midlands, he would compose them into the scenes that are exhibited. Some of the other works were done while attending Art School, others were sketched on the backs of any paper at hand.
He spent much of the Great War working in an armaments factory after being invalided out of the Army. Back home after the War, while working in his Dad’s business, he studied art and the piano with hopes of a career as a concert pianist. He really was that good. When my grandfather got cancer and died, the business was found to be greatly in debt and bankruptcy was recommended. He decided the debts had to be paid so his art and the piano career were set aside. He played his piano on Sunday afternoons, the only time he took off, but never again practiced his drawing skills. He died during an operation at the age of 63.
In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths state that desire and attachment are the cause of all suffering — and the only way to end suffering is to overcome desire and attachment. When I first learned that concept, it really spoke to me. For years, I’d craved a way to end suffering – specifically, my own. I was intrigued by the idea that the Buddha had been able to disconnect himself from relationships and earthly desires and had found a way to Enlightenment. That peace sounded really nice.
But the lifestyle that the Buddha prescribed was not for me. I just couldn’t commit. Although I was drawn to the idea of disconnecting, I had too much of a tendency to engage. Once I had children, as most of you can relate to, my attachments became less about me and more about them and their wants and needs.
I want to pose a question for Americans to think about. First, I want to give you some information:
The six wealthiest Americans are:
- Jeff Bezos 110 billion
- Bill Gates 70 billion
- Warren Buffett 60 billion
- Mark Zuckerberg 60 billion
- Koch Brothers 120 billion
Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett together have more wealth than the entire
bottom half of the country combined.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis End Racism Team invites you to participate in a community-wide reading of Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women by Susan Burton and Cari Lynn.
Based on the One Book concept promoted by local libraries and communities, we encourage members and friends of the Ethical Society to read the book over the summer and then participate in book discussions and other community activities during the late summer and early fall. The End Racism Team’s goal is to promote learning and community engagement on an issue that affects so many on a local, regional, and national level. Susan Burton says it best herself, “Telling your story is transformative. For both the storyteller and their audience, a new bridge to understanding is created.”
If you wish to participate, please complete reading the book by September 16.
Use this link to receive a 20% discount from Left Bank Books.
Questions? Please reach out to members of the End Racism Team at email@example.com.
Good morning. When I was asked to do opening words today I didn’t quite realize what I was agreeing to at the time . May’s theme is grief and sorrow and today is Mother’s day, and unfortunately for me those topics are intertwined. 7 years ago this month my mom passed away after losing the battle against pancreatic cancer. I wasn’t sure if I should even talk about this since my mom’s passing is still a tough topic for me to talk about even 7 years after, but given the day and circumstances I decided it was something I wanted to do.
My work is an extension of myself. It is a non-verbal language that reaches out and connects with people. I have been passionate about the human figure since childhood. I paint because I have to. It is what keeps me grounded.
I pull images from experiences, society, and basic human needs, desires, and dreams that are timeless. Each subject is personal in both selection and execution. My work strives to convey human yearnings and stories, and I exhibit them in a distinctive century old stylistic aesthetic; the subjects are often framed within the context of their daily lives and sometimes I bring attention to subjects I think are often overlooked.
I love working in different mediums, which has developed my mix medium style, a technique of blending mediums such as acrylic, watercolors, color pencils, and sometimes paper (skins). A graduate of Saint Louis University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Art and Media Innovation, I have exhibited in many solo and group shows in the Mid-West, and my work has been published in national and independent magazines.
Joy Wade’s exhibit will open on Friday, 8 June, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30 on 10 June. The exhibit will be hanging through 16 July.
Painting has been the core of my creative process and purpose, even though I followed a path that led me to choose stained glass design for the majority of my career. Previously I was dedicated to being a young painter with promise under the German Expressionist Karl Zerbe at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts (BMSFA). The Korean War intervened, and after 2 years of service, I completed my 5th year of study, a serious painter, intending to go to Europe. My ticket to Europe, the GI Bill, necessitated a change of study to stained glass. After three years at the Edinburgh College of Art, punctuated by three summers in the Art Museums of Europe, I found I was enraptured equally with painting and glass.
It was the 1960’s and the Revival of the “lost art” of stained glass. Fate stepped in and I received numerous commissions and a secure teaching engagement at the BMSFA lasting several years. I initially met with opposition from the stained glass establishment in Boston after my first installation, a majestically scaled 50-foot high window in nearby Norwell, Massachusetts. This did not deter me. I continued with a number of monumental installations in New England and Great Britain.
Nevertheless, painter I remained in my heart and soul. This proved to be a great complement to my stained glass design, which was received as “a fresh approach.” As I continued work in glass, my thoughts of returning to painting were nurtured. Throughout my career, I was keeping good company, if only in my imagination, with the painters I so admired.
The long space between my life as a stained glass designer and now as a painter was a time of transition, merging the energy and assurance gained in glass design with all the subtleties of painting. I broke my long “fast” two years ago to enter a painting for the first Art St. Louis show “Maturity and Its Muse”, and surprised myself, simultaneously, accepting an opportunity for a solo exhibition of 54 paintings at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in November 2016. I wish for those who come to see the work of my quiet years to find satisfaction, a quiet voice, and a change of pace.
Harvey Salvin’s exhibit will open on Thursday, 10 May, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30 on 13 May. The exhibit will be hanging through 3 June.
In honor of Earth Day, the Sunday Ethical Education for Kids (SEEK) program presented a Pageant of Plastiques fashion show, which featured accessories crafted from plastic and this slideshow full of plastic facts.
SEEK students challenge you to use less plastic and use your imagination to re-use the plastic you’ve already got.
The River Front Times has named the Ethical Society of St. Louis as one of 19 St. Louis Places That Are Way More Beautiful Than You’d Expect.
Who was Fannie Lou Hamer?
When one thinks of the millions of souls lost during the transatlantic slave trade, the missed potential immediately jumps to mind. All genocide robs us of the few geniuses that each culture produces. At the beginning of the previous century the pernicious system named Jim Crow served as another sort of genocide in the U.S. A genocide of potential. Many scholars have written of the number of lynchings during Jim Crow, perhaps the most famous one being Ida B. Wells’s A Red Record. Along with the incomprehensible loss of life, however, are the people who lived, but not really. The ones who weren’t fortunate enough to die. Those who lived believing a system that counted them as less valuable, less competent, less human; that this system was right, godly, and, (maybe worst of all), unchangeable.
The Nominating Committee members – Cathy Pickard, Ellen Wilson, Judy Kulczycki, and Cy Henningsen – are pleased to submit to the Board and to the membership the following nominees for the Ethical Society Board of Trustees:
Amanda Verbeck – President-Elect
Amanda is an artist, printmaker, and small business owner at Pele Prints. She joined the Ethical Society in 2015. Since then, Amanda has been involved in many groups and projects through out the Society, including the Young Ethicals, Branding Team, Diversity Task Force, Aesthetics Group, Evolution Exhibit, Lay Leadership Development Committee, and more. The community and people at the Society have become an integral part of her life, and excited about the prospect of serving the Society in a major leadership capacity
Christine Floss – Secretary
Christine first learned about the Ethical Society when her daughter, Amanda Stadermann, participated in SEEK’s Coming of Age program, and she joined as a member in 2008. A geochemist by training she is currently a research professor in the Physics Department at Washington University, studying the origin and evolution of our solar system. Christine has served on the Board in multiple roles, including as President, Secretary and Trustee-at-large. She is entering the second year of her current three-year term as trustee. If approved by the membership, the upcoming year will also be her second as Secretary.
Matthew Hile – Trustee
Matthew retired as a Research Associate Professor Emeritus from UMSL’s Missouri Institute of Mental Health. He and his wife Allison have been members since 1982. Over the years, he has served on Ethical Education Committee (member and Chair), Program Council (member and Chair), the Board (member), Personnel Committee (member), the Leader Search Committee (Chair) that selected Kate, and the Governance Task Force (Chair) which created our current governance structure. In 2016 he was honored to be a recipient of the AEU’s Anna Garlin Spencer award for outstanding long-term volunteer contributions to the Ethical Society of St. Louis.
Note: Ethical Society By-Laws allow for additional nominations to the Board, via petition. Members in good standing may be nominated to open Board positions by written petition, signed by at least ten active members and filed at the Society office at least 30 days prior to the Annual Membership Meeting (May 15, 2018). If the nominee-by-petition is running to be an officer of the Board, the position must be specified.
I was raised in New York City during a recession, and it often seemed like an angry place, at least in public. I recently read that New Yorkers smile less than people in any other city in America. I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to learn to be less angry and less defensive. I read stoic philosophy and practice mindfulness meditation and seek to be a calm and peaceful person. And I believe that to the extent I’ve succeeded at this, it’s helped me be a better Ethical Leader.
So I was challenged by James’s Platform “Get Angry, Make Change,” and his argument that “it is heat that allows us to bend the iron of the world. Hot hearts make change, not cool heads.” I have often wondered at how to ensure that calm does not mean apathetic, and peaceful does not mean inactive. At the same time, I believe that the most effective change is brought about by a hot heart ruled by a cool head, or at least that the two need not be in conflict. I think anger can be great and even necessary in the gas tank, but I worry when it’s sitting in the driver’s seat.
James referenced psychologists who differentiate between anger and rage, with anger being a motivator of positive action and rage being a blinding emotion that causes people to lash out. This reminds me of what I read a couple months ago in The Book of Joy, in preparation for my Platform Address “Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?” The book is a set of discussions between Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, two men who maintain joyful outlooks on life despite seeing and experiencing great hardship. They differentiate between what we might call “righteous” anger, which is anger on behalf of others that motivates us to fight injustice, and what we might call “self-righteous” anger, which is more about our own egos.
There are also tactical considerations with anger and its use and expression. There is a difference between being motivated by anger and expressing ourselves angrily.
I took to heart James’s call that we should “try to become more comfortable with the anger of others–particularly the anger of women and people of color, who are often subject to damaging stereotypes when they allow themselves to show anger.”
Yet a practical problem with angry rhetoric is that it whips up those who already agree with us but alienates those who don’t. And anger is almost always met with anger—so if anger is motivating, then making our opponents angry also motivates them. And then you have a fight rather than dialogue, debate, or negotiation.
I’m really not sure how I feel about anger, to be honest. Maybe James is right and sometimes you need to have a fight to have any change at all.
James shared several videos of people who had lost loved ones to gun violence; their anger was palpable, and contagious. And indeed their anger has reignited a movement that might turn out to be even more powerful than the weapons industry. I certainly hope so.